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Chronogram Conversation Recap: Summertime and the Drinkin’ Is Easy

A Panel Discussion with Local Craft Beverage Producers

Last Updated: 11/02/2020 1:38 pm
Stephen Theiss of Hudson Valley Distillers.
  • Stephen Theiss of Hudson Valley Distillers.

On Thursday, September 17, Chronogram held a virtual conversation with select Hudson Valley craft beverage producers.

Panelists included Stephen Theiss of Hudson Valley Distillers; Emily Watson of Plan Bee Brewery in Poughkeepsie; Martin Bernstein of Abandoned Hard Cider; and Tristan Migliore of Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery. Chronogram editor Brian K. Mahoney moderated the conversation.

The conversation ranged widely, with the makers on hand discussing COVID pivots, ingredient shortages, and increased demand during the pandemic. One theme that emerged across the cider/beer/wine/spirits spectrum was that all the makers' products were intimately tied to their terroir.

Here's more information on the event's panelists:

Hudson Valley Distillers is a farm distillery in Germantown that produces spirits as well as bottled cocktails on its 14-acre farm. Its products include Three Cedars vodka, made from New York corn; Fellows gin, which starts with Hudson Valley grapes; Bourbon Whiskey made from New York wheat; and Applejack distilled from local apples. Hudson Valley Distillers also just launched a bottled cocktail line, available exclusively at the distillery. Bottled cocktails include the Vodka Pomegranate Pucker, the bourbon-based North of Manhattan, the Jacked-Up Sidecar (with Applejack), and the Gin Basil Crush.

On the ground floor of a quaint 1830s barn amidst 25 acres of farmland in Poughkeepsie, the taproom of Plan Bee Farm Brewery sat dark from mid-March until early June, when the Mid-Hudson Valley entered Phase 2 of the four-part reopening process, heralding a return to outdoor dining and drinking. "We're lucky that our business model was always to be small, to never grow past producing 500 barrels a year," says Emily Watson, who co-owns Plan Bee with her husband Evan Watson. Along with opportunities for expanded local sales, new doors for distribution opened during the pandemic. "We actually started exporting our beer internationally to China, Japan, and Korea," Watson says. 

One of the Hudson Valley's most celebrated wineries, Whitecliff began in the late '70s when Michael Migliore, then a chemical engineer at IBM, began growing grapes on his property in Gardiner. Twenty years later, Whitecliff started offering its wines to the general public and currently produces a dozen varieties each year. Today, Migliore works closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension testing new grape varieties, and pushing the envelope on the quality of grape growing in the region. 

Abandoned Hard Cider, which was founded by hobby cider-maker Martin Bernstein and kombucha doyen Eric Childs, has more than doubled its brewing capacity annually since its founding in 2017, developing a following across New York State for its dry, crisp ciders of place. The Hudson Valley-based micro-cidery has taken over the one-time cafe, one-time souvenir shop in the lower parking lot of Hotel Dylan, rubbing shoulders with Santa Fe on the outskirts of Woodstock.

This event was sponsored by Hudson Valley Distillers.

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